Elevate Difference

We Got Issues!: A Young Woman’s Guide to a Bold, Courageous and Empowered Life

Simone de Beauvoir remarked nearly sixty years ago that in our society woman occupies the negative while man occupies both the positive and neutral positions, and this remains true today. This compilation of interviews, essays and poems highlights the thoughts of young women throughout the country and spotlights voices that are often missing from public debates, allowing us to hear their voices on serious issues. The editors should be particularly congratulated for seeking out women of color and lesbians as contributors since they, more than straight, white women, are often overlooked by mainstream media.

The book contains sections on health, spirituality, “-isms” (discrimination), sexuality, friendship, motherhood, violence, finances, work, and citizenship. Each themed component ends with a “ritual of empowerment” for readers to connect with that aspect of their lives as well as a page of statistics.

Some pieces highlight challenges and frustration. E. Anne Zarnowiecki’s “To Whom It May Concern,” for example, details her experience being treated as a second-class citizen when her young son was injured, as hospital employees could not grasp the idea that the boy had two mothers rather than a mother and father. In “You Can Be Right, Or You Can Be Happy,” Ghana-Imani gives an amusing and on-target description of someone searching for perfection in a romantic partner and coming to realize that she’ll have to settle for less than that, which doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be unhappy.

The interviews, one in each section, are the weakest area. While occasionally informative, as a whole they are unengaging. A notable exception is the interview with Chino Hardin, who spent time in jail as a teenager and now works for the Prison Moratorium Project, at the start of the segment on violence. Her discussion of the nature of violence and her own journey to understanding its impact on her life is illuminating and unapologetic.

The personal narratives of the book’s editors give us a glimpse of how the issues explored touch on their lives and those of other women. For instance, in the section “Who’s World Is This?”, Rha Goddess describes her disillusionment with electoral politics and her search for another way to make a difference.

More often than not, compilations are fragmented, but while the pieces in We Got Issues! represent a wide array of viewpoints, the editors have assembled them in such a way that they compliment each other. An enlightening read.

Written by: Karen Duda, January 12th 2007